The pill that could cure you of motorcycling

By Guy Procter -

General news

 08 June 2010 15:04

You better hope nobody from the EU reads this, but there's a pill that some experts think could 'cure' you of motorcycling.

The new drug ­called co-trimoxazole­ has been proven ten times more effective than previous remedies against the condition Toxoplasmosis ­a bacterial infection Dr Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University says is unusually common in motorcyclists, and which he believes could have contributed to our desire to ride the things in the first place.

Toxoplasma is a parasite scientists have recently observed makes infected rats appear to want to get closer to their chief predator, cats. Infected rodents become sexually attracted to cat urine, and take uncharacteristic risks in the presence of their feline nemesis. The behaviour change is believed to be driven by the infection's desire to be passed up the foodchain.

Dr Sapolsky goes on to say that motorcyclists have a high probability of being infected with Toxoplasmosis, and that infected people are "three to four times more likely to be killed in car accidents involving reckless speeding" ­suggesting the condition is key to our appetite for speed and risk.

Sapolsky says: "What is the bottom line on this? Well, it depends; if you want to overcome some of your inhibitions, Toxo might be a very good thing to have in your system.

"You want to know something utterly terrifying? The U.S. Military is interested in Toxo. And I would think they would be intrigued, studying a parasite that makes mammals perhaps do things that everything in their fiber normally tells them not to because it's dangerous and ridiculous and stupid and don't do it."

Worldwide Toxoplasmosis, ­which is picked up from cat or rodent faeces and generally goes untreated, is one of humanity's most prevalent infections, but the variances are interesting.

For example, Britain has a Toxoplasma infection rate of 6.6% while in bike-loving France it's 45%. Road deaths are also 68% higher in France than in the UK.

More from Dr Sapolsky.

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